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Laboratory light-scattering measurements with Titan's aerosols analogues produced by a dusty plasma

Planetary and Space Science
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.pss.2009.06.013
  • Titan'S Haze Analogue
  • Dusty Plasma
  • Light Scattering
  • Linear Polarization
  • Laboratory Experiment
  • Chemistry


Abstract The chemistry leading to the formation of solid aerosols (tholins) in Titan's atmosphere is simulated by a capacitively coupled plasma in a N 2–CH 4 gas mixture. The solid grains are produced in volume directly in the gas phase and studied ex-situ by SEM imaging and by light scattering on clouds of particles. The scattered light properties depend on the physical properties of the particles (morphologies, size distribution), as well as on the phase angle and the wavelength of the light. The particles may be aggregated or agglomerated grains. The grains size distribution is studied as a function of plasma parameters such as initial methane concentration introduced into the discharge, gas flow, absorbed RF power and plasma duration. The average grain size increases when the amount of CH 4 increases, when the gas flow decreases, and when the plasma duration increases up to a limit for each production condition. For all the samples, the absorption decreases with increasing wavelength in the visible domain. As usually found for irregular particles, the polarization phase curves have a bell-shaped positive branch and a shallow negative branch. The maximum of polarization ( P max) increases when the average grain size decreases (sub-μm-sized grains). To obtain P max values within the range of those measured in Titan's atmosphere; the average grains diameter has to be smaller than 100 nm, in agreement with the space observations results. In the light-scattering experiment, the size of the agglomerates in the clouds is in the 40–80 μm range in equivalent diameter. As a consequence P max increases with decreasing wavelength due to the increasing absorption, in agreement with observations of Titan from outside the atmosphere.

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